Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Communication Problems Run Deeper than Twitter

Metro's social media outreach has gotten a lot of attention from the press, but Metro's communication at critical times so often fails. Even Metro employees don't know what's going on a lot of the time.

Has anything like this happened to you?

From K:
The other night around 7, I was heading home from Ballston Metro. When I arrived, the information sign showed the train toward New Carrollton (my train) was boarding, but no train was there. The next ones behind were two and five minutes away.

A minute or so after I got to the platform (with the sign still the same), the station manager announced that the next train to New Carrollton would be boarding on the side of the track where the train to Vienna boards.

Everyone moved to the other side.

Some got on the train that was on the platform with the Vienna sign, thinking it would offload and turn around. However, the train operator did not seem to receive the same message the station manager got, and that train went on to Vienna.

Then, RIGHT when that train pulled off, the train to New Carrollton pulled in, on the OTHER PLATFORM!

Naturally, everyone rushed to the other side, but by then, the train had shut its doors.

Other customers screamed for the train operator to hold, but to no avail, and the train went on its way toward DC.

By then, a lot of people had gone to the kiosk, looking for the station manager, who was nowhere to be found.

Others were snapping shots of the manager's nameplate in the window. And others were being loud and angry and complaining about Metro.

Two transit police officers arrived, and everyone bombarded them with questions they couldn't answer because, well, no one knew what was going on.

A few minutes of this went on and then another New Carrollton train arrived, taking all the frustrated customers away.

I waited for the next one because I didn't want to be among angry people stewing on the train, and by then, the station manager returned.

Turned out Metro central control had let him know that a train malfunctioned and the trains were single tracking, which later proved erroneous.

He went on to say that in the four years that he has worked there, this has happened (at Ballston) three other times.

Apparently Metro likes playing practical jokes on its customers and station managers--who unfortunately HAVE to be the face of that, even when it's not their fault.
From Michelle:
The other night, I was leaving work pretty late, at about 10:15 p.m. I arrived at the West Falls Church station to board my train toward Arlington, when they announced that the train needed to offload because of a fire on the tracks, and service between West Falls and East Falls was on hold.

They told us they would be sending a shuttle.

We all trudged up to the bus area where we proceeded to wait ... and wait.

Another train headed to New Carrollton came and went below us.

Obviously, the problem wasn't serious enough to stop that train from going in our direction.

The shuttle bus still hadn't come, and we'd all been waiting about 20 minutes.

Two "Not In Service" Metrobuses had passed us.

Of course, we couldn't get any answers.

FINALLY, a woman with WMATA told us that the shuttle wasn't coming and we could go back downstairs and take the train.

Then, it still took another 15 minutes for that one to come.

I'm sorry, but that's absolutely ridiculous.

It's irritating enough that the trains barely run past rush hour, but to needlessly inconvenience a bunch of people late in the evening like that is ridiculous - and, of course, we still had to pay.

I can only imagine the hell that would've broken loose if this happened during rush hour.
Other items:
Metro employee's racist FB rant (TBD) (more on this coming)
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